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rooms. Betty went out to see what could be
done about so exciting a thing, and met quick-
footed Letty, who had been close at hand in
the dining-room.

" 'T is Miss Mary Beck come to call upon
you, Miss Betty," said Letty, with an air o
high festivity, and Betty went quickly down-
stairs. She was brimful of gladness to see
Mary Beck, and went straight toward her in
the shaded parlor to kiss her and tell her so.

Mary Beck was sitting on the edge of a
chair, and was dressed as if she were going to
church, with a pair of tight shiny best gloves
on and shiny new boots, which hurt her feet
if Betty had only known it. She wore a hat
that looked too small for her head, and had a
queer, long, waving bird-of-paradise feather in
it, and a dress that was much too old for her,
and of a cold, smooth, gray color, trimmed
with a shade of satin that neither matched it
nor made a contrast. She had grown to be
even taller than Betty, and she looked uncom-
fortable, and as if she had been forced to
come. That was a silly, limp shake of the
hand with which she returned Betty's warm
grasp. Oh. dear, it was evidently a dreadful


thing to go to make a call ! It had been an
anxious, discouraged getting-ready, and Betty
thought of the short, red-cheeked, friendly
little Becky whom she used to play with, and
was grieved to the heart. But she bravely
pushed a chair close to the guest and sat
down. She could not get over the old feeling
of affection.

" I thought you would be over here long
ago. I ought to have gone to see you. Why,
you 're more grown up than I am ; is n't it too
bad?" said Betty, feeling afraid that one or
the other of them might cry, they were both
blushing so deeply and the occasion was so

" Oh, do let 's play in the shed-chamber all
day to-morrow ! '

And then they both laughed as hard as they
could, and there was the dear old Mary Beck
after all, and a tough bit of ice was forever

Betty threw open the parlor blinds, regard-
less of Serena's feelings about flies, and the
iwo friends spent a delightful hour together.
The call ended in Mary's being urged to go
home to take off her best gown and put on


an every-day one, and away they went after-
ward for a long walk.

" What are the girls doing ? " asked Betty,
as if she considered herself a member already
of this branch of the great secret society of

" Oh, nothing ; we hardly ever do any-
thing," answered Mary Beck, with a surprised
and uneasy glance. "It is so slow in Tides-
head, everybody says."

" I suppose it is slow anywhere if we don't
do anything about it," laughed Betty, so good-
naturedly that Mary laughed too. " I like to
play out-of-doors just as well as ever I did,
don't you?'

Mary Beck gave a somewhat doubtful an-
swer. She had dreaded this ceremonious call.
She could not quite understand why Betty
Leicester, who had traveled abroad and done
so many things and had, as people say, such
unusual advantages, should seem the same as
ever, and only wear that plain, comfortable-
looking little gingham dress.

" When my other big trunk comes there are

tome presents I brought over for you," con-

3ssed Betty shyly. " I have had to keep one


of them a long time because papa has always
been saying every year that we were sure to
come to Tideshead, and then we have n't after

" He has been here two or three times,"
said Mary. " I saw him go by and I wanted
to run out and ask him about you, but I was
afraid to "

" Afraid of papa ? What a funny thing !
You never would be if you really knew him,"
exclaimed Betty, with delighted assurance. She
laughed heartily and stopped to lean against a
stone wall, and gave Mary Beck a little push
which was meant to express a great deal of
affection and amusement. Then she forgot
everything in looking at the beautiful view
across the farms and the river and toward the
great hills and mountains beyond.

"I knew you would think it was pretty
here," said Mary. " I have always thought
that when you came back I would bring you
here first. I liked to call this our tree," she
said shyly, looking up into the great oak
branches. " It seems so strange to be here
with you, at last, after all the times I have
thought about it "


Betty was touched by this bit of real senti-
ment. She was thankful from that moment
that she was going to spend most of the sum-
mer in Tideshead. Here was the best of good
things, a real f riend who had been waiting
for her all the time.



WHEN the happy Becky flew in to free her-
self from her Sunday clothes she did not meet
either member of her family, but on her
return from the walk she found her mother
grimly getting the supper ready.

" Oh, I have had such a lovely time," cried
Becky, brimful of the pleasure of Betty's re-
turn. " She is just the same as she used to
be, exactly ; only grown like everything. And
I saw Miss Barbara Leicester, and she was
lovely and asked me to stay to tea, and Betty
did too, but I did n't know whether you would
like it."

" I am going to have her come and take tea
with us as soon as I can, but I don't see how
to manage it this week," said Mrs. Beck com-
plainingly. " I have so much to do every day
that I dread having company. What made you
put on that spotted old dress ? I don't know


what she could have thought, I 'm sure. If you
wanted to take off your best one, why did n't
you put on your satine ? '

" Oh, I don't know, mother ! ' answered
Becky fretfully. " Betty had on a gingham
dress, and she said I could n't get over the
fences in my best one, and I did n't think it
made any difference."

" Well, no matter," said Mrs. Beck sigh-
ing, "they saw you dressed up decently at
first. I think you girls are too old to climb
fences and be tomboys, for my part. When
I was growing up, young ladies were expected
to interest themselves in things at home."

The good cheer of the afternoon served
Becky in good stead. She was already help-
ing her mother with the table, and v/as sorry
in a more understanding wav than ever before

O .

for the sad-looking little woman in black, who
got so few real pleasures out of Iife " Betty
Leicester says that we can have this one sum-
mer more any way before we are really grown
up," she suggested, and Mrs. Beck smiled and
hoped they would enjoy it, but they could n't
keep time back do what they might.

" Did she show you anything she brought
home, Mary ? "


" No, not a single thing ; we were out-doors
almost all the time after I made the call, but
she says she has brought me some presents."

" I wonder what they are ? " said Mrs. Beck,
much pleased. " There 's one thing about the
Leicesters, they are all generous where they
take a liking. But then, they have got plenty
to do with ; everybody has n't. You might
have stayed to tea, I suppose, if they wanted
you, but I would n't run after them."

" Why mother ! " exclaimed honest Becky.
" Betty Leicester and I always played to-
gether ; it is n't running after her to expect to
be friends just the same now. Betty always
comes here oftenest ; she said she was coming
right over."

" I want you to show proper pride," said the
mistaken mother. It would have been so much
better to let the two girls go their own unsus-
pecting ways. But poor little Mrs. Beck had
suffered many sorrows and disappointments,
and had not learned yet that such lessons ought
to make one's life larger instead of smaller.

Mary's eyes were shining with delight in
spite of her mother's plaintive discourage-
ments, and now as they both turned away


from the plain little supper-table, she took
hold of her hand and held it fast as they
went out to the kitchen together* They very
seldom indulged in any signs of affection, but

O i/O

there was a very happy feeling roused by
Betty Leicester's coming. " Oh good ! drop-
cakes for tea ! " and Mary capered a little to
show how pleased she was. " I wish I had
asked her to come home with me, she always
used to eat so many of our drop-cakes when
she was a little girl; don't you remember,

" Yes ; but you must n't expect her to be
the same now," answered Mrs. Beck. " She
is used to having things very different, and
we can't do as we could if father had lived."

" Grandpa says nobody has things as nice
as you do," said Mary, trying to make the sun
shine again. " I know Betty will eat more
drop-cakes than ever, just because she can hold
so many more. She '11 be glad of that, now
you see, mother ! ' and Mrs. Beck gave a
faint smile.

That very evening there were quick steps up
the yard toward the side door, and Betty
opened the door and came in to the Becks' sit-


ting-room. She stopped a moment on the
threshold, it all looked so familiar. Becky
had grown, as we know ; that was the only
change, and the old captain sat reading his
newspaper as usual, with a small lamp held
close against it in his right hand ; Mrs. Beck
was sewing, and on the wall hung the picture
of Daniel Webster and the portraits in water-
colors of two of the captain's former ships.
Betty spoke to Captain Beck with an air of
intimacy and then went over to Becky's mother,
who stood there with a pale apprehensive look
as if she thought there was no chance of any-
body's being glad to see her. However, Betty
kissed her warmly and said she was so glad
to get back to Tideshead, and then displayed a
white paper bundle which she had held under
her wrap. It looked like presents !

" Aunt Barbara had to write some letters
for the early mail and Aunt Mary was resting,
so I thought I would run over for a few min-
utes," said the eager girl. "My big trunk
came this afternoon, Becky."

"How is your Aunt Mary to-day?" asked
Mrs. Beck ceremoniously, though a light crept
into her face which may have been a reflection
from her daughter's broad smile.


" Oh, she is just the same as ever," replied
Betty sadly. " I believe she is n't sleeping
so well lately, but she looks a great deal better
than when I was a little girl. Aunt Barbara
is always so anxious."

" They were surprised, I observed, when you
and I came up the street together last night ;
quite a voyage we had," said the captain.

" Some day I mean to go down and come
back again in the old packet ; can't you go
too, Becky ? ' said our friend. " Captain
Beck '11 be going again, won't you, Captain
Beck ? I did n't look at the river half enough
because I was in such a hurry to get here."

" You 're sunburnt, are n't you ? " said Mrs.
Beck, looking very friendly.

" I 'm always brown in summer," acknowl-
edged Betty frankly. " Has n't Mary grown
like everything ? I did n't known how tall I
must look until I saw her. I 'm so glad that
school is done ; I was afraid it would n't be."

" She goes to the academy now, you know,'
said Mrs. Beck. " The term ended abruptly
because the principal's wife met with affliction
and they had to go out of town to her old


Betty, it must be confessed, had at thig
point an instinctive remembrance of Mrs.
Beck's love for dismal tales, so she hastened
to change the subject of conversation. Mrs.
Beck was very kind - hearted when any one
was ill or in trouble. Betty herself had a grate-
ful memory of such devotion when she had a
long childish illness once at Aunt Barbara's,
but Mary Beck's mother never seemed to take
half the pleasure in cheerful things and in
well people who went about their every-day
affairs. It seemed a good chance now to open
the little package of presents. There were
fcwo pretty Koman cravats, and a carved Swiss
box with a quantity of French chocolate in it,
and a nice cake of violet soap, and a pretty
ivory pin carved like an edelweiss, like one
that Betty herself wore ; for the captain there
was a photograph of Bergen harbor in Nor-
way, with all manner of strange vessels at
the wharves. Then for Mrs. Beck Betty had
brought a pretty handkerchief with some fine
embroidery round the edge. It was a charm-
iig little heap of things. " I have been get-
ting them at different times and keeping them
until I came," said Betty.


Maty Beck was delighted, as well she
might be, and yet it was very hard to express
any such feeling. Somehow the awkward
feeling with which she went to make the call
that afternoon was again making her dread-
fully uncomfortable.

The old captain was friendly and smiling,
and Mary and her mother said " Thank you,"
a good many times, but Mrs. Beck took half
the pleasure away by a sigh and lament that
her girl could n't make any return.

44 It 's the best return to be so glad to see
each other, Becky ! " said Betty Leicester, sud-
denly turning to her friend and blushing a
good deal as they kissed one another, while
the old captain gave a satisfied humph and
turned to his newspaper again.

Mrs. Beck was really much pleased, and yet
was overwhelmed with a suspicion that Betty
thought her ungrateful. She was sorry that
if there were going to be a handkerchief it
had not been one with a black border, but
after all this was a pretty one and very fine ;
it would be just right for Mary by and by.

The old cat seemed to know the young vis-
itor, and came presently purring very loud and


rubbing against Betty's gown, and was promptly
lifted into her lap for a little patting and
cuddling before she must run back again to
the aunts. This cat had been known to Betty
as a young kitten, and she and Becky had
sometimes dressed her with a neat white ruffle
about her neck to which they added a doll's
dress. She was one of the limp obliging kit-
tens which make such capital playmates, and
the two girls laughed a great deal now as they
reminded each other of certain frolics that had
taken place. Once Mrs. Beck had entertained
the Maternal Meeting in her staid best parlor,
and the Busy B's, as the captain sometimes
called them, had dressed the kitten and en-
couraged her to enter the room at a most
serious moment in the proceedings. Even
Mrs. Beck laughed about it now, though she
was very angry at the time. Her heart seemed
to warm more and more, and by the time our
friend had gone she was in really good spirits.
Becky must keep the cake of soap in her
Upper drawer, she said ; nothing gave such a
nice clean smell to things. It seemed to her
it was a strange present, but it was nice to
have it, and all the things were pretty; it


Was n't likely that any of them were very

44 Oh mother ! ' pleaded Becky affection
ately ; " and then, just think ! you said last
night perhaps she had n't brought me any-
thing, and it had been out of sight out of
mind with her ! ' Mary was truly fond of
her friend, but she could not help looking at
life sometimes from her mother's carping point
of view. It was good for her to be so pleased
and happy as she was that evening, and she
looked at her new treasures again and pru-
dently counted the seventeen little chocolates
in their gay papers twice over before she
treated herself to any. She could keep their
little cases even after the chocolates were

Mrs. Beck mended and sewed on buttons
long after the captain and Mary had gone to
bed. She could not help feeling happier for
Betty Leicester's coming. She knew that she
had been a little grumpy to the child ; but
Betty had luckily not been discomforted by it,
and had even thought, as she ran across the
street in the dark evening and up the long
front walk, that Becky's mother was not half
so disapproving as she used to be.



THERE was a gnarled old pear-tree of great
age and size that grew near Betty Leicester's
east window. By leaning out a little she could
touch the nearest bough. Aunt Barbara and
Aunt Mary said that it was a most beautiful
thing to see it in bloom in the spring ; and the
family cats were fond of climbing up and leap-
ing across to the window-sill, while there were
usually some birds perching in it when the
coast was clear of pussies.

One day Betty was looking over from Mary
Beck's and saw that the east window and the
pear-tree branch were in plain sight ; so the
two girls invented a system of signals: one
white handkerchief meant come over, and two
meant no, but a single one in answer was for
yes. A yellow handkerchief on the bough pro-
posed a walk ; and so the code went on, and
was found capable of imparting much secret


information. Sometimes the exchange of tnese
signals took a far longer time than it did to
run across from house to house, and at any
rate in the first fortnight Mary and Betty
spent the greater part of their waking hours
together. Still the signal service, as they
proudly called it, was of great use.

One morning, when Mary had been sum*
moned, Betty came rushing to meet her.

" Aunt Barbara is going to let me have a
tea-party. What do you think of that ? " she

Mary Beck looked pleased, and then a
doubting look crept over her face.

" I don't know any of the boys and girls
very well except you," Betty explained, " and
Aunt Barbara likes the idea of having them
come. Aunt Mary thinks that she can't come
down, for the excitement would be too much
for her, but I am going to tease her again as
soon as I have time. It is to be a summer-
house tea at six o'clock ; it is lovely in the
garden then. Just as soon as I have helped
Serena a little longer, you and I will go to
invite everybody. Serena is letting me beat


It was a great astonishment that Betty should
take the serious occasion so lightly. Mary
Beck would have planned it at least a week
beforehand, and have worried and worked and
been in despair ; but here was Betty as gay as
possible, and as for Aunt Barbara and Serena
and Letty, they were gay too. It was entirely

" I have sent word by Jonathan to the Pick-
nell girls ; he had an errand on that road.
They looked so old and scared in church last
Sunday that I kept thinking that they ought
to have a good time. They don't come in to
the village much, do they ? ' inquired Betty
with great interest.

" Hardly ever, except Sundays," answered
Mary Beck. " They turn red if you only look
at them, but they are always talking together
when they go by. One of them can draw
beautifully. Oh, of course I go to school
with them, but I don't know them very well."

" I hope they '11 come, don't you ? 5 said
Betty, whisking away at the eggs. " I don't
know when I 've ever been where I could have
a little party. I can have two or three girls
to luncheon or tea almost any time, especially


in London, but that 's different. Who else
now, Becky ? Let 's see if we choose the same


" Mary and Julia Picknell, and Mary and
Ellen Grant, and Lizzie French, and George
Max, and Frank Crane, and my cousin Jim
Beck, Dan 's too little. They would be
eight, and you and I make ten oh, that 's
too many ! '

" Dear me, no ! ' said Betty lightly. " I
thought of the Fosters, too "

" We don't have much to do with the Fos-
ters," said Mary Beck. "I don't see why
that Nelly Foster started up and came to see
you. I never go inside her house now. Every-
body despises her father "

" I think that Nelly is a dear-looking girl,"
insisted Betty. " I like her ever so much."

" They acted so stuck-up after Mr. Foster
was put in jail," Mary went on. " People
pitied them at first and were carrying about a
subscription-paper, but Mrs. Foster would n't
take anything, and said that they were going
to support themselves. People don't like Mrs.
Foster very well."

" Aunt Barbara respects her very much.


She says that few women would show the
courage she has shown. Perhaps she has n't
a nice way of speaking, but Aunt Barbara said
that I must ask Harry and Nelly, when we
were talking about to-night." Betty could
not help a tone of triumph ; she and Becky
had fought a little about the Fosters before

" Harry is just like a wild Indian," said
Mary Beck ; "he goes fishing and trapping
almost all the time. He won't know what to
do at a party. I believe he makes ever so
much money with his fish, and pays bills with
it." Becky relented a little now. " Oh, dear,
I have n't anything nice enough to wear," she
added suddenly. "We never have parties in
Tideshead, except at the vestry in the winter ;
and they 're so poky."

" Oh, wear anything ; it 's going to be hot,
that 's all," said industrious Betty, in her busi-
ness-like checked apron ; and it now first
dawned upon Becky's honest mind that it was
not worth while to make one's self utterly
miserable about one's clothes.

The two girls went scurrying away like squir-
rels presently to invite the guests. Nelly Fos-


ter looked delighted at the thought of such a

" But I don't know what Harry will say,"
she added, doubtfully.

" Please ask him to be sure to come," urged
Betty. u I should be so disappointed, and
Aunt Barbara asked me to say that she de-
pended upon him, for she knows him better
than she does almost any of the young people."
NeJly looked radiant at this, but Mary Beck
was much offended. " I go to your Aunt Bar-
bara's oftener than anybody," she said jeal-
ously, as they came away.

" She asked me to say that, and I did,"
maintained Betty. " Don't be cross, Becky,
it 's going to be such a jolly tea-party. Why,
here 's Jonathan back again already. Oh,
good ! the Picknells are happy to come."

The rest of the guests were quickly made
sure of, and Betty and reluctant Mary went
back to the house. It made Betty a little dis-
heartened to find that her friend took every
proposition on the wrong side ; she seemed to
think most things about a tea-party were im-
possible, and that all were difficult, and she
saw lions in the way at every turn. It struck


Betty, who was used to taking social events
easily, that there was no pleasuring at all in
the old village, though people were always say-
ing how gay and delightful it used to be and
how many guests used to come to town in the

The old Leicester garden was a lovely place
on a summer evening. Aunt Barbara had been
surprised when Betty insisted that she wished
to have supper there instead of in the dining-
room ; but Betty had known too many out-of-
door feasts in foreign countries not to remem-
ber how charming they were and how small
any dining-room seems in summer by contrast.
And after a few minutes' thought, Aunt Bar-
bara, too, who had been in France long before,
asked Serena and Letty to spread the table
under the large cherry-tree near the arbor ;
and there it stood presently, with its white
cloth, and pink roses in two china bowls, all
ready for the sandwiches and bread and butter
and strawberries and sponge-cake, and chocolate
to drink out of the prettiest cups in Tideshead.
It was all simple and gay and charming, the
little feast ; and full of grievous self -conscious-
ness as the shyest guest might have been when


first met by Betty at the doorstep, the pleasure
of the party itself proved most contagious, and
all fears were forgotten. Everybody met on
common ground for once, without any thought
of self. It came with surprise to more than
one girl's mind that a party was really so
little trouble. It was such a pity that some-
body did not have one every week.

Aunt Barbara was very good to Harry Fos-
ter, who seemed at first much older and soberer
than the rest ; but Betty demanded his ser*
vices when she was going to pass the sand-
wiches again, and Letty had gone to the house
for another pot of chocolate. " I will take
the bread and butter ; won't you please pass
these?' she said. And away they went to
the rest of the company, who were scattered
along the arbor benches by twos and threes.

" I saw you in your boat when I first came
up the river," Betty found time to say. " I
did n't know who you were then, though I was
sure you were one of the boys whom I used to
play with. Some time when Nelly is going
down could n't you take me too ? I can row."

" Nelly would go if you would. I never
thought to ask her. I always wish there were


somebody else to see how pleasant it is "
and then a voice interrupted to ask what Harry
was catching now.

"Bass," said Harry, with brightening face.

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Online LibrarySarah Orne JewettBetty Leicester → online text (page 3 of 13)